Photos of Larryblakeley

(Contact Info: larry at larryblakeley dot com)

Important Note: You will need to click this icon to download the free needed to view most of the images on this Web site - just a couple of clicks and you're "good to go."

Can Ximian Crash Microsoft's Desktop Party?

By Jay Wrolstad
NewsFactor Network
June 30, 2003 4:00AM

"The desktop is Microsoft's last stand for near dominance, which will gradually erode with greater awareness of the maturity of Linux desktop offerings," Forrester analyst Stacey Quandt predicts.

Breaking the desktop barrier has not been easy for the Linux community, but software developers are making inroads on arch-nemesis Microsoft and other corporate competitors, spurred by the adoption of open-source systems among private and public organizations.

One of those developers is Ximian, which now offers an upgraded version of its Linux desktop software delivering broad Windows interoperability. Its productivity applications and new features are designed to help businesses roll out Linux on the desktop in mixed environments with a minimum of hassles.

Bridging the Windows-Linux Gap

"Interoperability with existing applications and systems is critical for enterprise customers," Jon Perr, a marketing executive with Ximian, told NewsFactor. With that in mind, Ximian now has an intuitive interface and an integrated suite of applications that support the Windows file formats and networks prevalent in most work environments.

The heart of Ximian's Desktop 2 is its Evolution software, which includes an e-mail application and a personal information manager that integrates with Microsoft Exchange. Another noteworthy feature is Ximian's version of OpenOffice, an open-source office productivity alternative to Sun's StarOffice. Ximian has enhanced the feature set of OpenOffice and also enables users to more easily set up a network running Desktop 2 with other PCs running Microsoft Windows.

Based on the open-source GNOME 2.2 project, the software marks a major upgrade for Linux desktop and the OpenOffice application, Perr said. He cited built-in Linux software updating through the Red Carpet 2.0 application as another selling point for Desktop 2.

Target Markets

Linux on the desktop should gain traction as an alternative to Windows, said Perr. It is geared for transactional desktops that rely on a Web browser as the primary application -- common in businesses that use customer service, retail-store management and shop-floor systems.

Governments and public institutions worldwide are encouraging the adoption of Linux-based systems, Perr noted, seeking to develop their own technologies, save some cash, and get out from under Microsoft's thumb.

There is some migration toward Linux for the desktop, agreed Gartner research director Michael Silver, but such applications are in their infancy and will require Windows support to draw any sizeable interest, he told NewsFactor.

Microsoft's Last Stand?

"Companies have to decide if it is worth their time and money to build that support," said Silver. "There could be gigantic migration costs, depending upon the number of applications being used by an enterprise. Over time, there will be a lot more interest in Linux for the desktop."

While Ximian has targeted the enterprise, Desktop 2 also takes the individual user into consideration with new tools for burning CDs and for printer set-up, said Forrester analyst Stacey Quandt. "The company is positioning itself to appeal to customers seeking a lower-cost alternative to a Microsoft desktop," she told NewsFactor.

For the most part, said Quandt, government agencies and high-tech organizations have been the early adopters of the Linux desktop. She cited the Johnson Space Center and Amerada Hess -- an oil and gas exploration company that migrated from using hundreds of Sun workstations to a Ximian system -- as examples.

"The desktop is Microsoft's last stand for near dominance, which will gradually erode with greater awareness of the maturity of Linux desktop offerings," Quandt predicts.

Exchange Connection

Ximian has experience in developing Linux for the desktop, Silver noted, and now has a product that makes the application more accessible while boosting its capabilities at the same time. However, similar interfaces are offered with virtually all Linux packages.

One product that could separate Ximian from the pack is the Exchange connector that delivers Microsoft's popular e-mail application on Linux. "That fills a significant gap in the Linux desktop," Silver said.

As for the ongoing dispute between SCO and IBM over the alleged misuse of Unix source code, Perr said Ximian is not affected since its software sits on top of Linux and does not use the core operating-system technology found in servers. "We are not hearing any concerns about this issue from Linux customers," he said.

Two versions of Desktop 2 have been introduced: a US$99 professional edition with bundled third-party applications, such as Adobe Acrobat, Macromedia Flash, Real Player and Java2 Run Time; and a free version -- without support and third-party software -- available for download at the Ximian Web site.